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Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton)
6/09/05 –
I was taken aback to read the following in L'Ecluse No 1:
Maigret prit un taxi et arriva quelques minutes plus tard dans son appartement du boulevard Edgar-Quinet.
Quickly I turned to the English translation in Maigret Sits it Out and was relieved to read:
Maigret took a taxi, and a few minutes later was at his flat in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir.
(Chapter 6, p78 in the Le Livre de Poche 1972 paperback, and p68 in the Penguin 1952 edition.)

Can anyone account for this discrepancy? We need Peter Foord and his invaluable maps!


Roddy


In the (1991) Tout Simenon edition (Tome 18, p. 496) it's as expected:
Maigret prit un taxi et arriva quelques minutes plus tard dans son appartement du boulevard Richard-Lenoir.
Maybe that was corrected from an eariler typo? There's no mention of boulevard Edgar-Quinet in any of the Maigrets, according to my notes (based on English translations). It's next to the Montparnasse cemetery.

ST

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 2
6/10/05 –
I have the Press Pocket edition, printed in November 1989, and in addition to the (Edgar-Quinet) text Roddy cites above, at the end of chapter 6, there is :
"Oui ..... Non ..... boulevard Edgar-Quinet, il n'y avait personne et le grand lit était parti pour la campagne,"

Bd E. Quinet is not far away from "La Coupole" where Simenon used to meet Joséphine Baker (see previous Forum).

Regards,
Jerome

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 3 - Bvd Edgar-Quinet
6/10/05 –
Just to say that I have a 1977 printing of the Presses Pocket paperback of L'Ecluse No 1 which includes the reference to Bvd Edgar-Quinet noted by the previous correspondents. Although it must be a typo, the Bvd. E-Q is actually, in some ways rather similar to the Bvd Richard-Lenoir. Wide, tree-lined and with a central reservation which is used for a lively weekly market. It has always been an anomaly that Simenon never mentions the market in the Bvd Richard-Lenoir unless it only started up in the post-war period (though that seems unlikely to me). The Bvd Edgar-Quinet forms the northern boundary of the Montparnasse Cemetery which is always worth a visit, even without any Simenon connections.
Thanks for your ever interesting web-site,
David McBrien

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 4 - Bvd Edgar-Quinet
6/10/05 –
Here is an Ecluse N° 1 cover in German, Maigret in Nöten.
Chapter 6 does reference Bd E.-Quinet for Maigret's home.
Jerome

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 5
6/11/05 –
I hardly think replacing Bd Richard-Lenoir with Bd Edgar-Quinet could be a typo. I like the theory that Simenon had Josephine Baker on his mind, but I have the feeling (without looking it up) that the affair was over by the time he wrote L'Ecluse No 1.
I don't think there can be any doubt that Simenon placed the apartment in the Bd Edgar-Quinet in his manuscript (if anyone has a 1st edition they could perhaps confirm that).
What I find most interesting is that an editor at Penguin who obviously knew the works (or perhaps the translator?) decide that they knew better and relocated the Simenon household to Bd Richard-Lenoir.
Or maybe it was more likely to be an editor at the hardback publishing house which issued The Lock at Charenton in 1941 who spotted the error.

6/12/05 – The 1952 Penguin edition of Maigret Sits it Out has it that The Lock at Charenton was first published in England in 1941, but David Carter in The Pocket Essential Georges Simenon (p24) states that it was published by Routledge in 1940.
Simenon's editor at Routledge was Herbert Read, an eminent art critic. Assouline has the following amusing sidelight:
[Simenon} was initially unaware that it was under the amicable pressure of T. S. Eliot that Herbert Read ... deleted a few shits from some of his Maigrets. Eliot and Read believed that British readers would be disagreeably surprised to encounter such vocabulary in high-class books. (Assouline p255)
It would seem that this English squeamishness is not dead, if we consider David Carter's splendidly prim comment on The Lock at Charenton:
The novel is rather disturbing due to the sordid nature of the relationships involved. (Carter p24)

Edgar Quinet 1803–75, was a French historian. For more information, see Answers.com.

Roddy

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 6 - Bvd Edgar-Quinet
6/12/05 –
Typo wasn't really the right word but some sort of publisher's error may have crept in. In any event the 1941 Harcourt Brace edition (translated by Margaret Ludwig) has Bvd Richard-Lenoir.
David McBrien

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 7
6/12/05 –
Stanley G. Eskin makes this perceptive comment about The Lock at Charenton in his critical biography of Simenon:
L'Ecluse No. 1 is set in Paris and features another attractive "strong" type, Ducrau, a no-nonsense, virile, open personality whom Maigret instinctively responds to because he is a bit like himself — and both a bit like Simenon... (Eskin p91)


David McBrien's point that Maigret's apparent change of address might have been a publisher's error is a very good one. It's almost inconceivable that Simenon, who had been writing 18 Maigret books intensively over a short period of time, would forget or arbitrarily change the name of the boulevard where Maigret lived.
The error has obviously only appeared in French editions. Maybe the French compositor lived on the Bd. Edgar-Quinet!
It's surprising that the error lasted in different French editions for so long, being corrected apparently only in the Tout Simenon edition.
Roddy

Maigret of the Month: L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 8
6/16/05 –
L'Ecluse N°1 was the 18th Maigret published ; all of them in 2 years time. Simenon gets Maigret to retire. Luckily he does not kill him like Conan Doyle did with Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem".
Did Simenon want to free himself from a hero getting too much recognition, or did he want to write real literature and no more detective novels? Or was he only tired of Maigret? Can we find a parallel between "The Final Problem" of C. Doyle and "L'ecluse N°1" of Simenon?
Regards,
Jerome

Maigret of the Month (June): L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 9
8/10/05 –
Having chosen to set up his home in the property named "La Richardière" at Marsilly (Charente-Inférieure, now Charente-Maritime) near La Rochelle, Simenon proceeded with his intention to concentrate on writing novels other than those involving Maigret. After writing Liberty-Bar (Liberty Bar / Maigret on the Riviera), his seventeenth Maigret novel in April 1932, he wrote La Maison du Canal (The House by the Canal) in May 1932. This was followed by a visit to Africa, taking in several countries, which lasted until the beginning of September.

This was one of a number of times that he and his wife Tigy travelled to various parts of the world. These visits were largely financed by several magazine and newspaper editors who commissioned from him a variety of articles, which they published soon after his return.

Then in the autumn of 1932 he produced the novels Le Coup de Lune (Tropic Moon) with an African setting, L'Âne Rouge (The Night Club), which has echoes of a period in his earlier life in Liège, in Belgium, and Les Fiançailles de Monsieur Hire (Mr. Hire's Engagement).

During part of February and March 1933, he visited various European countries, including Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Whilst on these visits he kept a record of what he saw through his own photography. This collection of photographs is now kept in the Fonds Simenon (the Simenon Archive) in Liège and from time to time is put on show, as the temporary exhibition in the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris in early 2004, as well as being reproduced in various publications.

Returning to Marsilly, he reverted to writing L'Écluse N° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) in April 1933, his penultimate Maigret novel to be published by Fayard.

With his focus now on his other novels, he must have wondered what to do with his creation, Maigret. Launched in February 1931 at the spectacular "Bal anthropométrique" in Montparnasse, his Maigret novels had proved a success with the reading public as well as attracting film directors such as Jean Renoir.

In retrospect, it seems logical that Simenon took the obvious step and retired le commissaire Maigret from the French police force, perhaps bearing in mind Conan Doyle's solution for the exit of his creation Sherlock Holmes.

And Simenon was making another move by changing publishers from Fayard (who in the 1920s had published some of his work written under pseudonyms, as well as the later thirty-one volumes under his patronym) to Gallimard. He signed his first contract with Gallimard in October 1933.


A recent simplified section of a map of Paris showing the confluence of the rivers Seine and Marne (south east corner) at Charenton to the Île de la Cité. On one occasion Ducrau and Maigret walked along this stretch of the river as far as the bar Tabac Henri-IV in the centre of the Pont-Neuf (Michelin, Paris Plan, 1988).

For this, his last investigation, Maigret is in the Paris area. And once more it is centred around people who work on the river and in particular at the lock at Charenton (Val-de-Marne), a community that has its own way of life and code. The incident that brings Maigret onto the scene occurs just outside the south-east boundary of the city of Paris, beyond the 12th and 13th arrondissements, at the confluence of the rivers Marne and Seine.

This novel concentrates mainly on the duo of personalities, le commissaire Maigret, who is retiring from the police force in a matter of days, and the domineering Émile (Mimile) Ducrau, a barge and quarry owner. There are other people involved in various ways, mainly family, employees and those of the community, but Ducrau and Maigret's presence dominate the whole investigation. It is almost as if Simenon, as in his other novels, has decided to concentrate on and explore the personality of one person and how events, however small, affect him, with Maigret acting as a kind of mentor.

During those few days in April, there is a rapport that builds up between Maigret and Ducrau, so much so that when the latter learns of Maigret's imminent retirement, he offers le commissaire a lucrative position in his company. Maigret declines the offer, his furnishings have already been moved from his apartment in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and he sees his wife off from the Gare d'Orsay so that she can organise their new home at Meung-sur-Loire (Loiret).

At one point Ducrau and Maigret walk along the quayside of the Seine from Charenton to the centre of Paris by way of the Pont de la Tournelle on to the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité, where they end up at the Tabac Henri-IV, a bar in the centre of the Pont Neuf, which is a meeting place for freighters. En route they learn something of each other's background.

Over the days Maigret moves back and forth along the same stretch of the river meeting up with the same few people, attempting to piece together what he learns and observes with varied success. Later Maigret is invited to Ducrau's house amid the latter's family at Samois-sur-Seine (Seine-et-Marne) near the Forest of Fontainebleau. Here the tension rises as a battle of wills is played out, leaving it to Maigret to defuse the situation and to arrive at the truth.

To date there is only one translation, that by Margaret Ludwig who is one of the few earlier translators to follow Simenon's text faithfully.


Photograph (c 1945) of the end of the buildings fronting the Place du Pont-Neuf. The establishment on the right corner of the left building (with the large open blind) is the bar Tabac (Taverne) Henri-IV. In the novel, Ducrau explains to Maigret that this bar is the meeting point for freighters to discuss business (Leonard Pitt, Promenades dans le Paris Disparu, Éditions Parigramme, 2003).


A recent photograph of the same two buildings fronting the Place du Pont-Neuf with recent restoration work (Photograph, March 2005, Peter Foord).


The building with the Taverne Henry IV (The spelling of the name on this bar at the present time), N° 13, Place du Pont-Neuf on the corner with the Rue Henri-Robert. This short street leads to the tree lined Place Dauphine with the façade of the Palais de Justice in the background. (Photograph, March 2005, Peter Foord).

Peter Foord
UK

Maigret of the Month (June): L'écluse n° 1 (The Lock at Charenton) - 10 - Boulevard Edgar-Quinet
8/10/05 –

In his book Paris Chez Simenon, Paris, Encrage, 2000 (Travaux 37), under the entry Boulevard Edgar-Quinet on page 198, Michel Lemoine writes:

'By a curious mistake, Maigret and his wife on one occasion are resident in the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet and on another in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, according to the first edition of a novel written in 1933. The editor of the Œuvres Complètes had realised this lapse of memory, but had "wrongly" standardised the address in opting for the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet. One theory in connection with this strange desertion of the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir: when he wrote this Maigret novel, Simenon had forsaken the commissaire for nearly a year; is it not conceivable, therefore, that after this length of time, the novelist had had a lapse of memory concerning Maigret's precise place of residence? Perhaps he remembered a boulevard, a first name, a surname and he chose Edgar-Quinet, close to Richard-Lenoir as far as the number of syllables (2/2) and as far as the inner rhyme Edgar/Richard. Besides it is probable that Simenon at the time did not attach hardly any importance to the address of the hero who had brought him fame since he had firmly made up his mind to finally abandon him. That does not explain the two addresses appearing in the same chapter of the first edition. In view of such a blunder, one would like to be able to consult the manuscript of the novel, but the latter seems irredeemably lost. We hasten to add, to conclude this matter that the traditional home in the Boulevard Richard–Lenoir has been restored to the commissaire for the Tout Simenon edition from Presses de la Cité. Be that as it may, the offending novel is also the one of moving house for the Maigrets who are on the point of leaving Paris for the banks of the Loire, so much so that the commissaire, on the eve of his retirement, is unable to refrain from thinking with sadness of "this devastated home that they were going to leave for ever".

We could not "decently" leave the Boulevard (Edgar-Quinet) without mentioning The Sphinx, a luxurious brothel formally situated at N° 31 and ignored by the novels, but whose private salons often saw Simenon, according to the confidences delivered by the novelist to Alphonse Boudard.'

(translated by Peter Foord)

Note:

1) The first set of the "Complete Works" of Georges Simenon was Œuvres Complètes published in Lausanne by Éditions Rencontre, 1967-1973, in 72 volumes edited by Gilbert Sigaux.

2) The second set of the "Complete Works" of Georges Simenon was Tout Simenon published in Paris by Presses de la Cité, 1988-1993, in 27 volumes.

This set was reissued 2002-2004 as part of the Simenon Centenary (2003)

Michel Lemoine has indicated possible reasons for Simenon mistaking Maigret's address in Paris. It was a time of changes for the author. Obviously he thought the time was right for him to concentrate now on writing the more literary novels, changing publishers from Fayard to Gallimard and giving up writing the Maigret novels. Although popular with the reading public, for him Maigret had served the purpose, bridging the transition from his pulp fiction written under pseudonyms and the work he was eager to produce soon to be published by Gallimard.

But apart from writing novels, Simenon had other commitments. In September 1932 he visited various parts of Africa, while in December he studied the activities along the frontiers between Belgium, France and Germany. In February 1933 he visited several European countries, all these being sponsored by magazines for which he wrote several series of articles.

I have always been of the opinion that Simenon was not interested in developing Maigret's career or his private life as a secondary strand to the main story lines. Maigret's position in the Police Judiciaire varies slightly and inconsistently, and although his jurisdiction covers the city of Paris, Simenon finds various ways of sending him elsewhere to take on investigations.

Throughout his fiction, Simenon has made a few errors with names and places that have not been observed by publishers or proof-readers. Not that he was careless. The number of his manuscripts that are extant indicates his concern for correcting texts.

Peter Foord
UK

 

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